How To: Make a Finals Study Schedule with Microsoft Excel

It's the most stressful time of the year! Oh, wait. That's not how the song goes. Well, either way, it really is the most stressful time of the year: finals time. Now, obviously this is my first time taking college finals. Needless to say I'm pre-maturely aging with all of the stress. I've decided to use my new-acquired skills I've learned thanks to the lovely requirement by the Neeley Business School that we have to be "excel certified." And let me tell you, that test is no joke. Anyway, I've made my own study schedule so A) I space out my studies so I'm not cramming and B) I don't get bored/frustrated with one subject.

First things first, open a new Excel workbook. Fill in the left-hand column with times. I did mine in 30 minute intervals from 8am to 12am (let's be real though- I'll be up way past 12 most days). Next, fill in the top row with dates. I started with today and went all the way to the day of my last final. If you're new to Excel, you can enter the date "12/5/2014" and if  you scroll to the bottom right corner of the box, a green square will appear and you should be able to drag that to the right for as many days as you need, and they will date themselves! How nifty is that? Next, to make life easier for you, you need to freeze the top row, so you can scroll up and down and still know what day you're looking at. To do this, click the "View" tab at the top of your workbook, and then click "Freeze Panes." Next, choose "Freeze Top Row" and viola- you're set to begin.

Next, know when your finals actually are. It's not going to do you any good if you study for your last final and forget to study for your first. The key is to be sequential. Enter these into your schedule, selecting as much time as your final needs, then clicking "Merge & Center" on the "Home Tab." 

See how I color coded each class? That's optional, but I'm a visual person, so I needed a color difference to tell one box from another. And it looks pretty, which is a bonus.

To do this, select the "Select All" button at the verrrrry top left corner, between the "A" and "1" boxes. This should select your whole workbook. Then, on the "Home" tab head over to "Conditional Formatting," "Highlight Cells Rules," then "Text That Contains..." This is where you can enter the text that you want Excel to recognize. It's pretty darn smart, so, for example, if you type in "Soci," it will recognize "Soci" and "Sociology." On the right drop down menu, you can either choose one of the pre-selected choices, or, if those weren't pretty enough for you (they weren't for me), select "Custom Format." Continue these steps for all of your classes.

Now that you've done the pretty stuff, it's time to get serious. First, enter all of the concrete events you already have in your schedule, such as class, the football game (go frogs) and church. I chose to highlight those all the same color (because they don't have the same name, the conditional formatting won't work). Now it's time to schedule the difficult stuff: the studying. What I did, which is completely by choice, was look at the number of chapters I covered, and divide that amount by the number of days I had to study. That way, I could cover 2ish chapters a day, decreasing the stress and the procrastination. I went class by class, scheduling one or two 30 minute study sessions every day. I went in order of when my finals occur, starting at least 1 week before the final exists. This sounds super confusing, even to me, so here's a visual.

You'll notice that because of the conditional formatting we did earlier, your boxes will change colors automatically. How cool is that?? Notice I haven't finished mine yet, but I plan to leave a couple days blank and use them how I see necessary when the time comes.

Other Hints:

  • Try to schedule realistic amounts of time. I did 30 minute intervals so I don't get bored with one subject, but if you're more focused than I am, you could go for hour, or even two hour sessions.
  • Factor in sleep. Sleep is one of the most important parts of finals week because it drastically alters your brain. Get at least 7 hours of sleep each night, you can thank me later.
  • Eat healthy. Nothings going to make you feel more like crap than eating crap. Eat healthy snacks while you each, such as blueberries, almonds, apples, peanut butter and popcorn. 
  • Be realistic. For example, I have a mixer next Tuesday. I know I'll want time to get ready for it, so I factored in time for that so I won't be studying up until the point I get on the bus. That's just illogical. I also figured I'd be tired on Saturday after out big football game. I didn't include any study time there, but if I'm up to it, I'll have time to get ahead of schedule.
  • Are you a genius in one subject and a doofus in another? Factor that in. Do you know history like the back of your hand? Give that subject less study time. Struggle with calculus? Give that subject more time. 
I wish you all good luck on your finals!! I hope this helped you a little, and maybe decreased your stress by even a percentage. Here's a little motivation!

How do you study? Comment below!


  1. This tutorial has been a great help! I have always been very organized, but seem to lose track of time fairly easily. Thanks for the help!